Homeland Security Agent
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Homeland Security Agent

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Career Overview

Though you may not realize it, our country is in constant danger from threats outside of our borders. The reason it doesn't seem like it is because there are homeland security agents who work to prevent these crimes from even happening. These men and women work tirelessly to protect our country and its citizens from danger.Homeland security agents work for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). As you might have guessed by the name, this agency is dedicated to investigating any and all criminal activity that threatens our national security. But since they are responsible for the entire country and anything that could harm it, the scope of their investigations can be wide. As a homeland security agent, you'll cover human trafficking, money laundering, drug smuggling, weapons exporting, cyber crimes, and immigration fraud among other violations.Your primary responsibility will be investigating these crimes, and in order to do that, you'll be working in one of two places. You'll spend most of your time at the office, digging up any information you can on a case and following any leads you may find. It could be as simple as looking into potential suspects to more serious situations like determining the target of a terrorist attack. When you're not there, you'll be out in the field interviewing people, apprehending criminals, or patrolling our borders, airports, and shipping ports in search of suspicious people and activities. Though they might seem like two completely different things, they're not. The information you discover in the office will determine what you're objective is in the field. For example, if you found out a dangerous criminal was attempting to sneak into the country, you'd go out into the field to prevent that from happening.For a homeland security agent, every day that our national security remains intact is a victory. Every time a crime is interrupted and a terrorist is apprehended, it means they've done their job. The work is hard and sometimes dangerous, but it's also very rewarding. You just have to decide if it's the right kind of responsibility for you.

Salaries and Job Outlook*

2013 Median Annual Pay
Number of Jobs in 2013
Projected Growth Rate
6.3 %

Education and Training

Degrees Required:
Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice, Forensics, Criminology, or related fields. 1 year of experience in criminal investigation or 1 full year of graduate level studies.

Let's start with the basics. Before you do anything, you must be a U.S. citizen between the ages of 21 and 37 years old. You also need to have physically lived in the U.S. for 3 of the last 5 years when you apply, and you'll need to have a driver's license. Next, you'll need to earn your bachelor's degree in a relevant field, like criminal justice or forensics. Then you'll need at least 1 year of graduate studies in the field or a year of law enforcement or investigative experience. This means you could either work as a police or correctional officer, or just continue on to graduate school. That part is up to you.If you've met all the requirements, earned all the qualifications, and are officially selected to become a homeland security agent, you'll start by spending 22 weeks in paid, basic training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia. That's where you'll work on your physical fitness, learn to handle firearms, and practice techniques and abilities you'll need for the job.

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Valued Traits & Abilities

Communication Skills
Analytical Skills
Decision-Making Skills
Teamwork Skills
Detail Oriented.

Work Environment

Since crime doesn't operate on a fixed schedule, you most likely won't either. Cases and field operations might have you working nights and weekends, and possibly even holidays. Circumstances are different from case to case, so you'll have to adjust accordingly and accommodate any unpredicted emergencies.The job requires you to carry a firearm at all times, and there's a good reason for that. Dealing with criminals and terrorists can be incredibly dangerous, so you must always be ready to handle dangerous situations.

* Source: BLS Data - 2013